Tales of Enchantment

also known as "Michelle and Vern's Excellent Adventure"

19 January 2021
11 November 2020 | Phuket, Thailand
08 August 2020
01 March 2020
17 November 2019
13 November 2018
29 August 2018
12 January 2016
27 December 2015
15 September 2015
25 June 2015
26 March 2014

Thailand bits and pieces

07 May 2021
Vern Noren
We have been "stuck" in Thailand for just over a year now. There are worse places to be stuck for sure. Phuket went 3 months without a new local case of Covid, then suddenly went from zero to 250+ in a matter of two weeks. The rest of the country is under severe restrictions in an effort to contain it again. Officials believe it all started with large groups of partying youths and other "socially entitled" in and around Bangkok. I just read the Thailand ranks 124th in the world for vaccine distribution.
It has not been boring. Since our last update several months ago we have become better friends with many of the locals, had $6,000 in damage to our boat, had our diesel engine commit suicide, and revisited my hippy days.
The photo gallery has many new pictures with no rhyme or reason to the assortment.

North Thailand

19 January 2021
Vern Noren
We took a 3 week trip to N Thailand to a region I have never been to before. Michelle toured parts of it several years ago when our son & grandson came to visit. The region is mountainous and mostly remote with many small towns and villages.

Many different ethnic groups live in the highlands, many with their own languages, customs, and beliefs. The weather is pleasantly cooler than down in Phuket, and things are a lot cheaper. Our most expensive hotel was $25/ night, most under $20, and the cheapest was $7/night with a balcony on the river.

Thailand Tales

11 November 2020 | Phuket, Thailand
Vern Noren
It has been a while since our last update and a lot has happened. We returned to the marina for a month to have some boat work completed and repairs made, then returned to Phi Phi for two weeks. There was a big festival starting in Phuket which we did not want to miss so we sailed back to Chalong Harbor and anchored for a week.
We were in a gray area with immigration, we never got visa’s when we arrived last March, just crew papers that said we could stay legally for 30 day, NO renewal, No possibility to get visa’s. We spent two months talking to immigration officials, visa agent’s, other cruisers, with no solutions. Complicating the situation the harbor masters were instructed not to clear out any yachts to leave the country until borders opened up. So one agency says you cannot stay, another says your boat/home cannot leave. Immigration policy changes every few weeks here so everyone remains confused. Eventually it got sorted out after many, many trips to immigration. Every 30 days we have to return to the main office and they will stamp us in for another 30 days until borders open, which could be mid 2021, no one knows. At least our stress is greatly reduced.
To make things interesting the following is how we spent the second night in Chalong.

After living on board 16 years, and cruising full time the last 11 years we had a new first. We have been anchored in Chalong Bay, Thailand for the last few days. Big anchor, 200 ft chain on a mostly mud bottom, 10-1 scope. We always back down at full throttle and our reversing prop give us almost full thrust. Around midnight, as another of many short squalls barreled through the anchorage Michelle went out to check wind speed and our position. All good. Ten minutes later the wind picked up again and when she checked this time we were less than 10 meters from a catamaran that used to be 100+ meters away.
For the first time ever we had dragged our anchor but this was not the time to celebrate. I took the wheel as she tried to get the anchor up. The chain jumped out of the bow roller toward the middle so now she is pulling it up across the teak front lip. As I struggled to gain some control and keep us off the other boat the anchor winch breaker kept tripping from the strain of the pull. Too noisy from the howling wind and rain communication was impossible and I could only guess which direction the chain was leading. Complicating the situation was the full awnings we had up. They hindered visibility forward and acted like sails, pushing us around with great force.
We finally got the anchor up and headed down wind behind all the other boats and dropped all 250 feet of chain, the 55lb Delta anchor, large snubber, and a prayer. We wrestled the awnings down, the wind dropped to about 20 kts, and we were happy again.
In hindsight I think the new awnings were the main factor in our dragging since it had never happened before and we have used this anchorage many times.
When we finally settled back down to finish a movie we had been watching my wife gave me a kiss and said we did that whole thing without yelling at each other, like that has ever happened.
Start to finish of our adventure was one hour. Since we did not damage anyone else, worked together smoothly, it was all sort of fun in a demented kind of way.

Still alive after Covid

08 August 2020
Vern Noren
After a long period of laziness I am updating our blog. The short story is about our Covid challenge. In mid March we sailed 200 miles across the Mallaca Straits and Andaman Sea to Northern Sumatra. Our intention was to join a group of other cruisers for an organized rally down the West coast. The day the rally officially began the Mayor of Sabang , our starting point, said he did not want us there because of the Covid scare. The next day there were guards at the port gates to keep us in. The following day the organizer told us the next rally stop told him not to come, and the one after that was still deciding.
Things were going downhill so we decided to drop out and went through formalities to clear out of Indonesia. Our new plan was to get to Langkawi, Malaysia as quickly as we could, 200 miles away. By the time we finished preparing to leave, Malaysia announced the closing of all borders. Our only other option was Phuket, Thailand, also 200 miles away. We were just hoping they would still be open. Thailand closed it's borders a week after we arrived. A week after that Phuket shut down the airport and were shutting down movement between provinces, with highway check points to assure compliance. Along with other shut downs of pretty much every thing.
We decided to go into a marina we have stayed at before so we would have easy access to a grocery store, boat supplies, ability to walk on land, plus see a few friends again. Shortly after that the marinas were banning all new arrivals. We were very lucky to make the right decisions. We know of many other boats that were stuck in anchorages and not allowed ashore. Arrangements were made to bring them food and supplies. The boats that continued with the rally were chased out of many harbors by police boats and scared locals. They were rumored to be carriers and few towns were willing to let them stop. Cruisers all over this part of the world were at sea when borders were closed. One family friend of ours has been stuck on their boat in Sri Lanka for 4 months now. Several other couples went up the Red Sea to the Med and were never allowed off their boat the whole passage, two months. Then a 14 day quarantine in the Med.

So any way, we are good. We spent 4 months in the marina which killed our budget. It is very expensive but at least we had unlimited fresh water and electricity. We got spoiled by being able to run our air conditioner. After the first 8 weeks the authorities started open things up slowly so we could move around Phuket. Despite the cost we were there long enough to make some new friends and felt like we were becoming a part of the local community.

Thailand did a great job containing the virus. Stay at home orders, mandatory masks, crack downs on big groups, contact tracing, temperature checks every where, and still continue. Alcohol was banned for 2 months. Thailand has not had any new local cases in 9 weeks. They just tested several thousand people would attended a crowded event, most not wearing masks despite the law. None of those tested had the virus.

Hey Ann Rowe Pramis, I can't find your email address

Check out the 2 new video links in FAVOITES section

02 March 2020
Vern Noren

We are still alive

01 March 2020
Vern Noren
Not much has happened since our last post but we thought we should update our blog anyway. Next weekend we start a new adventure. It starts with a sail from Phuket, Thailand to Sabang, Indonesia. We will sail down the Western coast of Sumatra, then up to Borneo. After a few months in Borneo we will join a small group to sail to NE Indonesia and work our way back to the S Pacific. We should each the Solomon Islands around Feb of next year.
Vessel Name: Enchantment
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 40
Hailing Port: Chicago
Crew: Vern & Michelle
Vern, originally from Chicago, has lived in New Orleans and the Nashville, Tn area. I have been sailing for almost 40 years, have logged over 15,000 offshore miles and hold a 100 ton masters license. I also work as a critical care nurse. [...]
Extra: We are currently finishing with upgrades and improvements to Enchantment in preparation for a 3-4 year cruise from Baltimore to New Zealand. Our cruising kitty will be fully funded and our departure date is set for Oct 2010 with a transit of the Panama Canal late February 2011
Enchantment's Photos - The Friendly Paradise of Fiji
Photos 1 to 115 of 115 | Main
Sailing past the Mamanuca islands off the N coast of Livi Vetu
Main and only street on Sawa-I-Lau
On the outer island the locals will always invite you into their home for
Jon and a new friend
JJ actually volunteered to attend school for the two days we were anchored off Sawa-I-Lau in the Yasawa Group.  One of the other children brought him home for lunch each day.
One of the assignments of the school children is to keep the rocks lining the
Jon and I looking for bananas and coconuts
A local chases after JJ,  our grandson, as he tries to scale this coconut tree
The staff of Robinson Crusoe island resort were extremely cruiser friendly and made JJ a part of their crew.  They showed him how to use a net to fish then cook it over an open fire, do a fire dance, and ipen coconuts.
Viti Levu,  the main island,  in the back ground.  We were sailing along the N coast on our way to Vanua Levu,  2nd largest of 300+ islands
JJ and his first fish,  a 20lb Mahi,  really good eating
One of many beautiful sunsets
Shoreline along Mokogai,  a former leper colony.  They now propagate and raise giant clams to restock the reefs.
The ruins of the old leper colony
And their final resting place
When the occasional live aboard dive boat visits Mokogai the villagers put on a small cultural show which was very entertaining.
Hard to believe his distant ancestors probably ate missionaries for dinner.  The locals said Adam is the most photographed child on the island.
After the dive boat visitors left the men invited us to join them for our first of many kava ceremomies
These giant clams can live hundreds of years and grow as large as 4 feet across.  Now and endangered species
We anchored in this peaceful lagoon in the town of Savusavu,  on the island of Vanua Levu. It is know as a good hurricane hole to escape the worst of approaching cyclones. As I write this cyclone Pam is devastating Vanuatu, 500 miles to the West with 150 mph winds
Savusavu is the 2nd largest town on the 2nd largest Fiji island of Vanua Levu.  This shows about half of the whole main street.  The population is about 2000, approximately half native Fijian,  half East Indian,  with a scattering of Asians and varioius expats.
Meeting up again  with other cruisers we have crossed the Pacific ocean with is always a pleasure we look forward to
Overlooking Vianni bay.
Sugar cane is always good for you,  just ask him
You can charter this 150 foot boat,  complete with crew,  for only $250,000 per week.  That is not a misprint so start saving.
For a lot more you can charter this 240 foot boat,  complete with helicopter and sea plane.  This one is only $600,000 per week.
Seri, Jon & Michelle.  Seri is a fisherman on Rambi as well as a village official back in town
The view from Seri
Seri paddles this home built canoe 5 miles from town to his fish camp on Rambi.  He stays there for a long as a week fishing the reefs.  On a low tide his wife will walk that same distance along the rocky shore to stay with him
The women of Kioa are reputed to be among the best weavers in all of Fiji
Moonrise off the island of  Taveuni
Taveuni,  the Garden Island,  gets more rainfall than any other island in Fiji.  The landscape is lush with many waterfalls to tempt you.
The rain also provides a natural water slide.
The International Dateline runs through the island of Taveuni,  aka the Garden Island.  Half of our bodies are in today,  the other half yesterday,  or tomorrow,  depending on your point of view
An unusual sight in the islands,  part of the rugby inter island tournament festivities
The Prime Minister in the red shirt and the island
Local food vendors at the event
Each team had seven players.  Its similar to football without the helmets or padding,  and these guys place rough.  But they always had a smile and usually helped the opposing team members off the ground after a tackle. I had the impression they enjoyed playing at least as much as winning their match.  We watched 6 games and never saw any players lose their temper.
A rugby fan showing his teams colors
The police departments team.  I tried to trade for one of their team shirts but no deal
The capital of Suva has a huge market where fruits and veggies of every kind can be found at excellent prices
Suva market
Dinner at the chief
This family from the island of Motuka "adopted" us.  When we visited the village she was born in they told us we were the first cruisers to ever go the the village.  When they learned we were out of fruit they gave us 2 huge stalks of bananas,  probably 3-400 total,  plus papayas and fish.  We were sharing with other cruisers for days.
Called a Christmas tree worm,  they are only about an inch long and quickly retract into their shell when a shadow passes over
Turtles are very common in Fiji and swom remarkably fast when scared
Those thin lines are harmless garden eels, usually hundreds to a colony they quickly disappear if you get close
Fiji is know as one of the best diving locations in the Pacific
A tube worm extended to filter feed in the current
water visibility often exceed 75 feet
We love to watch clown fish and anenomes
We saw at least a dozen fifferent species of clown fish
Another tube worm
The anenomes have stinging tentacles that clown fish are immune to.  This provide them protection from predators.
One of a dozen varieties of sea cucumbers we
Namena marine park
Diving the Namena marine park
Fiji is know for its variety and the health of it

On approach to the remote island of Fulanga,  in the Lau Group.  Before this year it was almost impossible to get government permission to visit these distant islands.  They were afraid a large influx of tourists might disrupt the traditional life style the islanders prefer.  Fortunately there are no resorts or hotels in the group that we know of so little appeal to most tourists,  and the anchorages are not suitable for even small cruise ships.
As we approached the pass into the lagoon we were greeted by a small pod of  pilot whales.  They grow to 15~18 feet long
The main anchorage in Fulanga,  an absolutely gorgeous view
One of hundreds of islets around the Fulanga lagoon
Low tide
High tide brings raises water levels as much as 6 feet,  happens twice a day here
Enchantment anchored near the village
The beginning of the path from anchorage to village,  about a 15 minute walk.  After dark you don
The head chief of the entire island is 87 yrs old, he asked me to take a picture of him and Michelle.
After presenting our gift of kava to the chief we were introduced to some of the families who promptly began to feed us.
The meeting house is were most activities take place
Michelle became very popular when she brought all her jewelry making supplies into the village for the ladies.  They kept her in the meeting house for 3 consecutive days learning to make jewelry.  Even though it is inexpensive stuff to us it is beyond the means of most of the islanders to purchase.
Jewelry frenzy,  puts the home shopping network to shame
Learning how to grate coconut from the shell
Main Street rush hour in Moana-i-Cake.
Most of the village was here.  Those not seen were probably cooking for the crowd
Getting ready for festivities and kava ceremony with the chief
Fish cleaning time
When we were in Fulanga there averaged 6-8 other boats.  The villagers often had meals prepared for us.
The nurse clinic on Fulanga.  Most islands have at least a small clinic with a nurse.  This is part of their commitment after graduation from school.
I saw this posted in the nurses clinic tallying the island
Typical homes in the outer islands.  The people live a very traditional life where community is highly valued.  They pretty much have to fish, grow, or pick most of what they eat. Fulanga had not had any rain in 4 months and the cisterns were running dry.  The chief banned all clothes washing and showering until emergency water could be shipped in by boat from the Capital of Suva,  200 miles away.   No one has running water in their homes,  they store it in cisterns and barrels
Eight years of saving bought each of the 52 inhabited homes 2 solar panels, battery, and a few fluorescent lights.  Now for the first time in their lives they will have a monthly bill of $18 FJD,  about $12 US.  Most with little or no income we are not sure how they will pay for this.
Celebrating the installation of electricity
It took 8 years for the village to save enough money to have electricity installed in all the homes of the village.  The chief told the women to
Gallee in the flowered dress whooping it up.  Michelle and her become good friends
Practicing my spear throwing skills,  the target has nothing to fear!!
Local transportation on Fulanga
Practice makes perfect
The children take joy in anything new and fun
Dancing,  not attacking :-)
Looking down on Moana-i-Cake
The villagers will say they don
Michelle learning a new trade.  On Mondays the village women get together to weave new mats for flooring or send to the craft market in Suva.
Tonga, in the blue shirt, waiting his turn to pound the kava root into a powder to make the drink.  It looks like dirty water and tastes almost as good.  Kava is actually the root of a variety of pepper plant.  Drinking kava is a usually an every day activity each evening. Families and friends gather to share each others company and socialize
Always happy to see the lobster fisherman
Mary & husband Johnny were our hosts in Moana-i-Cake.  It took us 2 days to realize John spoke no English.  He always smiled and said yes when we said something to him.  Mary cooked us lunch almost every day then sent food home for dinner even when we told her not to.  We did bring her many food staples but she would never take no for an answer.  This is her kitchen & eating area. The main house is a step across the ground. One large room with a partial wall separating the sleeping area.  The homes only have shutters over window openings and most have less furniture than this
The islanders still cook everything over open fires.  They even bake excellent bread and cakes on these
Inside the kinder garden bunk house.  All the island children attend this one island school in Moana-i-Cake.  They spend the weekdays here and go home on weekends.  Grades 1 thru 8 attend school on the island,  for high school they all go to Suva on the main island, 200 miles away.
Michelle, Gallee, and Salata spent the morning fishing with great success.
Shoreline along Moana-i-Cake, the main village of the island
Our host family on either side of us and a few new friends
The church choir from "our village"  won the singing competition between the 3 churches on the island.  The islanders have a string religious commitment and every village has a church.  On Fulanga a drum is sounded every six hoursa and the villagers are supposed to stop, or wake up,  and say a little prayer.  Sundays are spent in church for almost the whole day except for meals.  During meal times we witnessed families bringing around plates of food to each other
Joe dressed in his finest Sunday church clothes.  The skirts are called sulus and common attire for Fijian men.  In the villages all men,  locals and visitors, are expected to wear a sulu to visit the chief and any formal function of the community.  Mine is just a blue print cloth wrap I m keep I my backpack for such occasions.   During church Joe uses the stick to gently remind children to behave with a tap on the shoulder.
The post office.  The village has two phones that work via satellite link.  I don
Another view of main street
If they are lucky the villagers can climb to the top of this hill and get a cell phone signal from another island 30 miles away. Very few can afford a phone as there is really no way to earn money on the island unless you are a government employee,  teacher or a nurse.
The picture postcard beach is just steps away from the heart of the village
The Fulanga carvers are know as the best if the islands and Alfredi is a master.  Except for the base he carved this parrot out of a single block of wood.  The dark and light colors are all the natural shades of the wood swirling with the grain.  I had to buy it.
Ma is always smiling and laughing.  She may be the jolliest person on the island.
Mary,  our village host weaved this mat for a parting gift
Our friends held a kava ceremony and dinner for us the evening we left.  A dozen or so villagers came to say farewell.
The villages presented us with these hand made gifts the day of our departure.  The bowl is hand carved from a solid block of local wood and inlaid with the inside of chambered nautilus shells, collected from outside the reef.   The nautilus lives below 600 feet and surfaces at night to feed.  It is not uncommon to find their unbroken shells along the reef.  The material looks much like mother of pearl.  These items in the Suva craft market would cost hundreds of dollars.